The latest student head count figures in the four lakes area public school districts remain unofficial, but the preliminary figures indicate a drop in enrollment in the Huron Valley, Waterford and West Bloomfield school districts, while the student tally conducted earlier this month in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District rose slightly. Declining enrollment figures result in less total state funding for a district and can sometimes require budget amendments if officials weren’t conservative when drafting their academic year budgets back in May.
The student enrollment figures are a crucial component of the state’s per-pupil public school funding system: A drop in enrollment can mean less state funding for a district, while enrollment growth can result in additional state financial support. Student count days are used by the state to determine how much money each school district receives through a per-pupil allowance.
The official student count days, as established by the state’s School Aid Act, are the Wednesday in the fourth full week of school in a new academic year and the second Wednesday in February.
The totals from the fall and previous winter counts are blended and the fall count is weighted more heavily. This is known as the blended count system.
The blended count total involves weighting the fall count at 90 percent and the winter count at 10 percent to reach a blended count total. The proportions of the blended county system have changed over the years, and were previously 80/20 and 75/25, for example.
After the fall count each year, school districts have five weeks to get a final enrollment number to their respective intermediate school district to be verified and audited.
The audited student head count figures typically become effective in mid-November. This reportedly helps the school districts get their state aid for students that enroll after the fourth-Wednesday head counts.
If a student is absent on a count day, there are a certain number of grace days that will allow the student to be counted as long as a procedure if followed.
Here’s a look at how the lakes area’s school districts fared during the recent fourth-Wednesday student head counts.
Enrollment down in Huron Valley School District
In the Huron Valley School District, the unaudited count on Wednesday, Oct. 5, was 9,947 full-time equivalents (FTEs), a reduction of 150 students from the count conducted in the fall of 2010.
Full-time equivalency is what is reported to the state of Michigan for the purposes of state aid payments. Full-time equivalency is the actual time that a child is in the district. There are instances when special education students, for example, are only in the district for a portion of the day, which can — in some instances — equate to full-time equivalency coming out as a non-whole number.
The unofficial enrollment count for the fall of 2010 was tallied at 10,111.44 FTE, a decline of 169.13 FTE from the fall of 2009.
“We had projected a decrease of 212 students from fall 2010 and a blended count decrease of 197 for 2011-12. Based on the unaudited count and considering the new 90-10 blended formula, our blended decrease would be 164 students,” said Community Relations and Fund Development Director Janet Roberts.
The blended formula was formerly 80-20, extracting 80 percent from the fall count of the current year and 20 percent from the previous spring, according to Roberts.
The district verifies the enrollment of students who were absent on the count day, including tracking students who were attending an event off-site or attending another program such as vocational or college courses.
Per-pupil funding is based in part on student attendance on count days.
The 33 students counted on Oct. 5 over the district’s previous estimate equates to approximately $226,000 in additional state aid based on $6,948 per student, compared to last year’s per-pupil foundation allowance of $7,418.
While enrollment is still down in Huron Valley, the district budgeted conservatively. Roberts attributes the ongoing declining enrollment trend to the recession in Michigan and lower birth rates.
“It is encouraging that (our enrollment) is slightly higher than budgeted and we will have a confirmation of the count in November,” Roberts said. “We only had about 15 students go to another district as a result of the closing of Highland Middle School. Granted, we do not want anyone to leave Huron Valley Schools, but we respect the right of parents to choose their educational options.”
Walled Lake Consolidate School District bucks local trend
According to Judy Evola, the director of community relations and marketing for the Walled Lake Consolidated School District, the teachers in the district perform a count of the students at a designated time, recording who is there and who is not.
The unofficial student tally from this year’s fall count is 15,518 students. This is slightly up from the count performed earlier this year in February, when the count was 15,423 students.
From these two student counts, the estimated blended student count is 15,565, which Evola said includes the district’s preschool special education children at Twin Sun, their adult education students, and the students the district serves at Franklin Christian, where the district provides art, music, and physical education services. The new blended count is slightly higher than last year’s blended figure of 15,484.
According to Evola, these unofficial counts will now go to the state, where an audit will be performed. The district typically receives those results in February or March.
The district’s fall student count is up from last fall’s count, during which 15,463 students were counted. However, this fall’s tally is still short of the number counted in 2009, when there were approximately 15,649 students documented.
Walled Lake Schools’ state foundation grant is estimated at $8,165 per student for the 2011-2012 school year, which is down from the previous school year by about $470, when it was $8,635 per student.
Superintendent Kenneth Gutman said he doesn’t believe that the latest count and blended figures will cause any budgetary concerns for the district during the current school year.
“No, not at all,” he said. “(Our enrollment) is actually up a little bit. It’s up primarily at the secondary (education) level. We were up about 91 students at the high school level. We will actually not have to make any budgetary changes based on the enrollment at this point.”
Fewer students counted in Waterford School District
Like in the Huron Valley district, the Waterford School District’s student enrollment is declining. Preliminary student count on Oct. 5 was 11,103, according to Thomas Wiseman, assistant superintendent for business & human resources.
He added that the February 2011 count was 11,113, making the blended count for the 2011-12 school year approximately 11,104.
Wiseman also said that the per-pupil student foundation allowance for the 2011-12 school year is $7,175, which is down from $7,480 in the 2010-11 school year.
Waterford Schools also measured its head count at 11,275 in September 2010 and 11,322 in February 2010.
The district’s head count was also at 11,292 in September 2009 and 11,312 in February 2009.
“We will continue program offerings at the current level as originally adopted based on projected enrollment and foundation allowance,” Wiseman said. “The Pupil Accounting Office reviews and audits information to determine the student count that will be submitted.”
After Waterford students sign up through central enrollment, a printout of the students in the system is produced and then a copy is given to each building secretary, who then gives the printout to teachers to verify by taking attendance on count days.
It is done every hour by middle and high school teachers, and in the morning and afternoon by elementary teachers.
Decline in enrollment recorded in West Bloomfield district
As is the case in the Huron Valley and Waterford districts, enrollment is down in the West Bloomfield district, where the unofficial student count figure on Oct. 5 was 6,603.20 FTE, and the blended count for the new academic year was 6,617.72 FTE, according to Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator Pamela Zajac.
She added that the district’s count figure for February 2011 was 6,744.42 FTE and that the district considers FTE for its count.
Zajac also said that the district’s blended count figure is unofficial and may change after Nov. 4.
She added that the district’s per-pupil foundation allowance for the 2011-12 school year is $8,646, which is down from $9,116 in the 2010-11 school year, a loss of $470 per pupil.
Looking back, West Bloomfield’s student count in September 2010 was 6,788.64 FTE, which was down from 6,880.84 FTE in February that same year.
In September 2009, the student count was 6,928.82 FTE, which was up from 6,851.17 FTE in February 2009.
In September 2008, the student count was 6,846.71 FTE, which was up from 6,693.70 FTE in February 2008.
And in September 2007, the student count was 6,643.63 FTE.
“We have already cut back. This year we will be receiving approximately $100 per student for each retirement reimbursement and best practices, but this is one-time only money,” Zajac said.
“There are many unknowns and, unless something happens in Lansing, we may find ourselves in a problematic situation next year, as will other districts.”
She added that the district counts students through attendance.